By on November 2, 2006

x06sv_bu019222.jpg As a young man, I developed a profound distain for a neighborhood Corvette owner. Every week, he rolled his beautiful brand new C4 onto his driveway to hand wash the car and service the magnificent engine. When the washing ritual was done, the Vettophile slowly paraded the glorious machine though the neighborhood, and then carefully returned her to his garage. A waste of adrenaline stoking pleasure, to be sure, but the Vette owner’s behavior highlights an interesting, oft-overlooked aspect of automotive safety.

In a college industrial psychology class, we studied a California business that suffered significant losses from forklift accidents. A consultant advised the business to assign operators to specific forklifts. More radically, he convinced management to let the drivers personalize their wheels. The operators named them, painted them and blinged-out the forklifts to their heart’s content. Forklift accidents sank to zero virtually overnight. The operators’ efforts to personalize "their" vehicles created an emotional investment in the welfare of the equipment, which motivated them to become safer drivers.

Does this mean that pistonheads smitten with their rides (like our garage queen Vette guy) are less likely to drive like hoons? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s fiendishly difficult (read: expensive) to quantify and separate the huge number of overlapping variables that can have a profound affect on driver behavior: age, income, geography, driver training, driving skill, personal psychology, vehicle type, level of “emotional attachment” and so on. In the absence of hard data, common sense applied to anecdotal information is about as good as it gets.

For example, would anyone in his or her right mind dangle their beloved baby out the balcony window of a five-star hotel? Of course not; only a disturbed pervert would do such a bizarre thing. Likewise, a caring pistonhead would not knowingly endanger a car he adores. Sure, “knowingly” is a gray area. Some of us like nothing more than roughhousing with our machines. But common sense still suggests that the Vette owner's careful husbandry can be extrapolated into a theorem: we’re less likely to endanger a cherished whip with out-of-control recklessness.

Consider the obverse: if we don't care about the vehicle we drive, it becomes easy to thrash it. A dealer once asked me to name the fastest car in the world. “A rental car,” he pronounced. Fair enough: rentals are the automotive equivalent of a one-night stand. Other than the embarrassment of returning a broken car to the agency and the cost of a deductible, what do we have to lose if we ruin a rental car? Nothing. No wonder pistonheads tend to drive them like they stole them.

Likewise, I’d like to see some stats on the accident rates involving short-term leases. Like so-called serial monogamy, a leased car doesn’t require a “real” commitment. Why slow up and take care? After all, you're only going to have the car for a year or two. No matter how badly you race the engine or stomp on the brakes, they’ll be good enough until you get a new ride.

Speaking from statistically irrelevant personal experience, a car doesn’t have to be expensive, luxurious, quick or sure-footed to engender its owner's love. Years ago, I parted with a 16-year-old Toyota Camry. I loved that rolling piece of crap. My blood, sweat and tears were in that machine. I bloodied my knuckles dozens of times changing oil, replacing brake shoes and pads, spark plugs and distributors. Once, I even wrestled out the rear seats so I could replace the rear struts.

More times than I can count, that Camry shuttled me halfway across the country between my parent’s home and college. I drove the car to my wedding and my honeymoon. I drove my wife in the Camry to the hospital for the births of both of our children. I know many of you think that Camrys are soulless appliances that are impossible to love. But people do; these steadfast vanilla vehicles participate in their life experiences. As the ad says, at some point, they become more than a car.

I can think of no public policy or social engineering program designed to improve highway safety by encouraging an emotional connection between man/woman and their machine. (Hmm… Perhaps we should establish a North American Man-Vehicle Love Association? No, no. Bad idea.) However, I do know that as I changed the motor oil in my Honda Accord last night-– she is getting full synthetic these days-– my fondness for the car has grown. Driving safety improves because every act of caretaking for the car makes me that much more invested in its welfare, as well as my own.

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53 Comments on “America’s Love Affair with The Automobile Saves Lives...”


  • avatar
    sleepingbear

    The NYC taxi- the yang to your corvette yin

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Do you know that a 1995 Dodge Neon can hit 110mph by the speedometer? Yep, that’s what I pushed a long term rental to do over a decade ago, on a straight line in the New Mexico Desert.

    Then again, there are some hoons who pimp their rides and drive like maniacs. I was cut off by one yesterday in traffic, weaving in and out, using the 280hp under the hood of the 350Z irresponsibly.

    I knew someone who bought a modded 3rd gen Supra, dynoed at about 600hp. He didn’t buy it to drive it slowly.

  • avatar
    artsy5347

    Interesting column!

    I think there’s a correlation between loving the car and respect for the “game” of driving. Like NFL and MLB purists, pistonheads care about the condition of the sport as well as the teams and players.

    I would contend that if you truly love cars, you have an unwritten code about how they should be driven. That’s far more thought than the average motorist puts into driving.

    Does this make car guys and gals better drivers? I think it probably does & it would be an interesting study.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    While a 1995 neon can hit 110, I can tell you that a 2005 neon has more offroad capability than any suburban mom demands of her suv.

    My emotional investment keeps me from tailgating because i don’t want stone chips.

  • avatar
    Somethingtosay

    The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry as examples of America’s “love for the car”? Say it ain’t so! Please?!?

    Maybe I’ll have to redefine what I thought being an “enthusiast” was all about.

    I dare say you’d have felt the same way in a “reliable” Ford Taurus. There’s got to be more to the love of cars than that.

  • avatar

    Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t.

  • avatar

    America’s “love for the car” goes beyond enthusiasts. My 86-year-old father has a 2002 Buick Century he bought new. It was the first “fancy” car he ever owned. He’s hardly what I’d call an enthusaist, but he babies that car, keeps it spotless and follows a strict maintenance schedule. He, like many owners of what we’d all call “boring” cars is proud of his ride and it shows in the way he drives it anc cares for it.

  • avatar
    ash78

    While I really want to agree 100% (coming from a guy who rolled over 100,000 miles this morning in a ’98 Passat that has seen a shop maybe 3 times in the past 5 years–tires, sport suspension, timing belt)…the majority of the Hondakidz and Bimmer brats I see around are the type that drive it like they stole it, then their parents buy them something new with little or no repercussions.

    So I add the corrolary that you have to have money and time investment in it for it to matter to you. There’s still no cure for the 17-y-o in the tricked out Accord with cheap primer bodykit, driving it at 100% between every stoplight. Unless that kid is paying the bills and doing the modding/maintenance himself, I really doubt he cares about hurting his car–or mine, which would be disastrous for me, because the $7k or so the insurance company would give me for my totalled car just couldn’t easily put me into something I deem an appropriate replacement for my Passat. Not to mention all the sunk costs of mods and maintenance, which has zero value to Allstate.

    But I digress–great article, I liked it a lot. I wish we could get people more invested in their cars, I definitely think it would help.

  • avatar

    Yet another theoryanother theory about why American’s tend to drive like asses.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    So I add the corrolary that you have to have money and time investment in it for it to matter to you. There’s still no cure for the 17-y-o in the tricked out Accord with cheap primer bodykit, driving it at 100% between every stoplight. Unless that kid is paying the bills and doing the modding/maintenance himself, I really doubt he cares about hurting his car–or mine, which would be disastrous for me, because the $7k or so the insurance company would give me for my totalled car just couldn’t easily put me into something I deem an appropriate replacement for my Passat. Not to mention all the sunk costs of mods and maintenance, which has zero value to Allstate.

    So true…

  • avatar
    Logan

    I can’t count the number of land speed records I’ve broken in a rental car!

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    The NYC taxi- the yang to your corvette yin

    So long as there are dollars dangling from a stick in front of cabs, the drivers will always drive like maniacs to get them. This monetary incentive trumps love of car, self or society. Fortunately most of the rest of drivers do not operate under this condition.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    wow – there must be a whole lot of people around here with rental cars

  • avatar
    maxo

    Like the 350Z driver starlightmica mentioned, keep in mind that owning a nice car doesn’t mean you have an emotional connection to it. That 350Z might’ve been bought by his mommy. They probably have too much money. Why worry about crashing your Enzo when you have a SLR McLaren at home?

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    I think there needs to be a distinction between caring for a car and how you drive the car. I couldn’t care less about maintaining a car I do not own like a rental, but I generally drive it the same way. Reason? A ticket puts points on my license whether or not I’m in a rental.

    Maybe I’m just getting old, but I care more about my insurance costs and getting into haggles with my insurance company over replacement costs than I do about getting to my destination 10 seconds sooner than otherwise.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Hmmm.

    While I tend to love the car I dirve, I see them as easily replaceable.

    For instance, Just yesterday I wanted to see if my WRX could handle high-rpm clutch-drops like that RS4.

    The answer is not only “no,” but I think I damanged the car’s unitbody, as the whole thing now pulls to the left.

    Mind you I was doing this while driving to the grocery store and listening to public radio.

    I guess some of us are just jerks.

  • avatar
    New2LA

    With all due respect, you are writing about a very small cross-section of enthusiasts, typically older males; so I’m having a hard time making the safety correlation.

    In fact, the biggest safety issue that should be given more attention is the number of accidents caused by crappy roads.

    Roads are the great equalizer…we all have to use them, regardless if we have machines we baby or a rustbucket. But out here in lalaland, the roads are the worst I’ve seen and are the proximate cause for numerous accidents, even involving beautiful expensive toys.

    Examples of the problems in LA:

    – No left-turn-only signals, so left turns must be made after the light turns red at most intersections

    – The 405 and 101 freeways have been expanded to where the lanes are now too narrow for regular speed traffic

    – Overcrowded roads and freeways where traffic comes to a screeching halt without warning or reason, and at any time of the day or night

    I may be going on a tangent here, but I’ve long argued the solution to many accidents (a/k/a careful driving habits), as well as the so-called “global warming” problem, is to build more roads in congested areas. Doing so would reduce accidents and greenhouse emissions, because there would be less chances for cars to bang into each other, and fewer cars would be stopped in traffic with their engines idling pointlessly, waiting for old ladies to move out of the way.

  • avatar
    Steve C.

    I’d say it has a lot to do with maturity level. Maturity usually progresses with age, but not always. It seems to boil down to the following question: “If I get into an accident or a ticket, will it really make a difference in my life?” If it does, then they’ll probably be reasonable about it. If they’ll be bailed out by parents, if it doesn’t have a significant impact in their lifestyle, or if they’re simply deranged, then they probably won’t be reasonable about it.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Steve C:

    The opposite is happening with me. The older I get, the more enthusiastically I drive.

    Of course, I’m a jerk, so…

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    This is an interesting theory. I formerly leased cars and did not treat them very well and did drive recklessly until I got to 1 ticket away from losing my liscense. After that I calmed down somewhat. Now I own my car and religiously take care of it, doing the maintenance myself, but its excess performance has led me to reach new levels of speed and tire screaching. Of course its excess capability make me feel as though I am not being reckless.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    New2LA

    The 101/405 interchange is grounds for publicly executing every politician in the state.

    Twice.

  • avatar

    Well, here is a fact to add to the equation.

    I consistently turn better times on track days if I’m NOT driving my own car.

    I once took an MB 450sl out on a track and turned the 3rd best lap of the day – behind a brand new Ferrari, and a very well driven late 60s Corvette. I beat Porsches, and any number of greater cars that should have thrashed the slushbox equipped Benz boulevard cruiser around a road course. The difference was all those other drivers were behind the wheel of a their own car. I was driving somebody elses. ;)

    When I’m on a track with my own car, I’m always thinking … “oh, look at that wall! That would cost $15,000 to crash into! Oh, better not over-rev, I’ve already put too much cash into this damn engine!… etc”

    –chuck

  • avatar
    carguy

    I don’t buy it – statistically the 2 door version of cars (such as 3 series etc) have a higher chance of crashing than their mechanically similar 4 door equivalents. This is because aggressive drivers are drawn towards the sportier versions.

    But don’t take my word for it – look at the insurance rates for similar valued vehicles (eg 330i vs 330ci or WRX vs Camry or Miata vs LaCrosse). I dare say that the insurance companies have the stats on how these are driven and they are borne out in the rates they charge.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    i like the article but i don’t fit this picture. i really love my car – i wouldn’t be totally crushed if it got totalled, but it would be a pretty bad day to say the least. i put a lot of effort into taking care of it, but i do drive it hard, by some standards ‘maniacal’. in the two years i’ve owned it i’ve never put a single scratch on it however. but then again i’ve been driving like a maniac for over 20 years so i think i know what i’m doing by now (no accidents knocking on wood). if anything happens it comes out of my own hard-earned money. i’ve had to pay for everything i’ve owned since the age of 13. then again we’re all unique individuals.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Tire wear tells me that I drive as enthusiastically as ever. But I am safer about it now by toning it down in areas congested with people and other cars (and where cops prowl). I do not think that safety and fun are mutually exclusive.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Most of my driving (age 28, never had an accident) is very conservative daily commuting. I hang back from cars ahead of me using the two-second rule, or four seconds if it’s wet. I don’t stress anymore when people get in front of me.

    But when I’m not putting anyone else at risk–passengers, other drivers–I will sometimes go like a bat out of hell, or at least as much as my 3,300# V6 FWD “family sedan” on Eibachs will let me go. I like to know “where 90% is” under all circumstances. Sometimes I scare myself a little, but usually it’s just a reminder of how it can be good to invest in sticky rubber and a good suspension, even for a relatively mundane vehicle.

    But general it’s about maintaining decent gas mileage, engine longevity, and reducing stress levels. If you’re going to be stuck commuting, it is what it is, and you really can’t make it much more fun. Save the sporty efforts for when they’re needed or when they’re safe.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I remember a study in my Criminal Justice classes reference fleet management for police forces that clearly showed that if you are self financed, the TCO for purchasing and assigning take home cars is almost always cheaper than fleet cars that get turned over every shift (there were other intangibles, too, like higher visibility, increased response time for special units, etc.).

    Then I got to live that study out in the real world, and I can tell you, my personal assigned car was very well taken care of compared to some department fleet-beater.

    To this day, without knowing a department’s policies, it usually takes less than a minute for me to discern between the two policies by a cursory examination of a car.

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    Most of the 17yr old brats that thrash their parent-sponsored ricer are driving automatics (from what I’ve noticed). And we all know that with a rare exception, a slushbox is your only choice in a rental. So my theory is that automotive safety would be on the rise if people were forced to deal with a stick shift again. My last POS was a Hyundai with an automatic. I needed a cheap commuter car, and I beat it like a rented mule. I’ve since dumped the angry Korean for something more refined with a stick. I still drive illegally, but with much more concern for the well being of my car. There is something personal about choosing the gears yourself. Your car will tell you that you are hurting it. Bad shifting sounds and feels like kicking a puppy, but without all the laughing and Youtube video to show your friends. Drive stick, drive better….that’s my take.

  • avatar

    >>The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry as examples of America’s “love for the car”? Say it ain’t so! Please?!?

    I’d rather be driving a Boxster, but I love my Accord. I have personalized it in a small, subtle way, but putting cruiserline ventiports on it, which I cut out from a flexible magnetic material.

  • avatar

    >>I may be going on a tangent here, but I’ve long argued the solution to many accidents (a/k/a careful driving habits), as well as the so-called “global warming” problem, is to build more roads in congested areas. Doing so would reduce accidents and greenhouse emissions, because there would be less chances for cars to bang into each other, and fewer cars would be stopped in traffic with their engines idling pointlessly, waiting for old ladies to move out of the way.

    It may seem odd, but more roads can actually slow traffic down, depending on how they mesh with each other. You can’t just add them willy-nilly

  • avatar

    The only time I’ve ever hit redline was when I was taking my old 93 Saturn to the shop to get a new engine (the original was guzzling oil after 65000 miles).

    I did thrash the ’77 Toyota Corolla I had before the Saturn, because I’d bought it in ’85 for $450 (from one of the future Iraq weapons inspectors, but that’s an aside), and once I’d gotten 3 years out of the thing, I just felt like anything more was gravy.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Great artical William.
    As the saying goes “You tend to trash what you dont own”

    I had a 1967 Volvo Wagon (144) whilst in college. I placed a very high value on it because I considered it “My Freedom”. I actually washed the freakin thing once in awhile and tuned it up and changed the oil more often than was really necessary. (I re-engineered the thing (I was an engineering student) into a convertable which involved a cabin party, chain saw, and a keg-o-beer… It became a very unique vehical…. Ahhhh college.)

  • avatar
    alanp

    Carguy,

    Yeah – I’d guess coupe drivers are perhaps less careful than sedan drivers as they are inherently less interested in practicality and choose style over function.

    But why you use the following “But don’t take my word for it – look at the insurance rates for similar valued vehicles (eg 330i vs 330ci or WRX vs Camry or Miata vs LaCrosse).” is a bit strange other than the 330i vs 330ci the vehicle you compare are not in the same class. And the WRX is a 4 door (or station wagon) but nothing like a Camry. And again comparing a Miata to a LaCrosse is just plain silly.

    What is more pertinent is how much lower the accident rates are for the WRX wagon than the WRX sedan.

  • avatar
    New2LA

    Hey Johnny, by the way what are they doing there? They have concrete walls at the intersection, so does that mean they are actually making some improvements there, or is that just par for the course here?

    David Holzman:

    “It may seem odd, but more roads can actually slow traffic down, depending on how they mesh with each other. You can’t just add them willy-nilly “

    I was waiting for someone to make that statement. But it’s a moot point really…its almost like saying a company that creates more jobs will find more people applying for them.

    The bottom line is the roads were designed 50 years ago for 1/3 of the number of cars that are currently on the road, thus its no surprise that there’s alot of congestion and resulting accidents. The numbers speak for themselves.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    It probably LOOKS like I’m driving like a maniac, but I’m under my Miata’s limits. The sharpest turn on my commute (with a 15mph yellow suggestion sign) I first took at 25mph and every day I added about 1mph until reaching an entry speed of 40mph. I’m sure I could do more (tires don’t even squeal) but I’m scared of losing it and hurting my car.

    Well ok, it’s my wallet I’m really worried about, but I would be embarrassed to death of driving around with scratches or dents that I caused by being stupid. Back in my previous $300 beater, I was more willing to risk hitting a guardrail. If someone wanted to merge into my lane and I was in a bad mood, I’d brace for impact instead of taking evasive maneuvers (never got hit, sadly – I really wanted to get out of that car).

    And I can totally believe the forklift story too. Emotional invesetment won’t make us all angels, but it plays its part.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    Two door vs. Four door: Makes sense when you think about it. Most people who buy a 4-door automobile have children. I used to be an aggressive driver but would never dream of driving like an idiot with my kids in the car.

    And yes, you can have strong feelings for plain, boring cars. My wife absolutely loved our old Ford Aerostar. 210K miles, big dent from a deer strike, and trashed inside from years of hauling kids. But it’s done everything our family has needed it to do. It has been supplanted by a newer minivan, but we still have it as an extra and she drives it once in a while for the nostalgia.
    I owned a ’92 Maxima 4DSC model. Plain, but reliable and fun to drive. It carried my wife and i away from the church where we were married, took me safely back and forth to work, and did a paniced late night high speed run to the ER when one of my kids got hurt. I babied that car, did all the maintenance, and kept it looking good. I was almost in tears when it got totalled (but she kept me safe in a serious accident–a final gift, if you will). So yeah, it doesn’t have to be a hot rodded out Mustang or Regal T-type to form a strong bond.

  • avatar
    GodBlessTTAC

    jonny your comments make me smile

  • avatar
    New2LA

    Oh and by the way, I own an ’06 330i Sport 6 MT that I absolutely trash the hell out of…and love every minute of it. (Johnny, if you see a Bimmer flying down the 101 at 80 in 3rd gear, that’s probably me.)

    Doesn’t forward the theory much.

  • avatar
    GodBlessTTAC

    hey more la people… sweet

  • avatar

    I wrote: “It may seem odd, but more roads can actually slow traffic down, depending on how they mesh with each other. You can’t just add them willy-nilly “

    New2LA responds: I was waiting for someone to make that statement. But it’s a moot point really…its almost like saying a company that creates more jobs will find more people applying for them.

    I think you’re misunderstanding me. This is not the “if you build it they will come” argument. It’s much more subtle, something that people with advanced degrees study. Depending on the way they criss-cross, and other stuff that has to be analyzed by computer, more roads can actually slow the traffic down, even if there is no increase. Better roads, now that’s another story

  • avatar

    >>Drive stick, drive better….that’s my take.

    People who drive a stick usually care more about cars and driving. But only about 7% of Americans still drive sticks. I dread the day when I have to go to Europe to get a car with a stick.

  • avatar
    GodBlessTTAC

    stick… thats how i roll. actually i rented an aveo auto recently and felt like i was going to fall asleep at the wheel. nothing for me to do other then go forward… found my mind wondering off alot more aswell

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Ignorance seems to be a universal thing among people.

    Being an enthusiast is about A LOT more than JUST performance or sportiness. If that’s what some of you think an enthusiast is, then dare I say you are not real automotive enthusiasts.

    *True* automotive enthusiasts love cars period.

  • avatar
    mikey

    They are more than just machines to me they are part of me.
    I have had many car/trucks in my life and they are all special to me.My 01 2dr Grand Am GT with its leather seats and Monsoon sound system still thrills me.I know what everybody thinking A GRAND AM? yes indeed and I LOVE IT!
    But my 2000 FIREBIRD 3.8 rag top, its sleeping in the garage untill spring when it becomes my second love.
    Yeah I am a little bit nuts

  • avatar
    confused1096

    Yeah, it is getting harder and harder to find a stick shift. After driving a Freightliner for awhile I haven’t really liked automatics since. It’s really frustrating to go car shopping right now because I can only seem to find a manual on the base stripped down versions of assorted cars. I don’t really want a stripped car so I’ll probably wind up putting up with an auto.
    This even extends to pick ups which just seems strange.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I know this is going to sound really cheesey, but I’m one of those types that whenever I have rented a car, and it wasn’t very clean, the first thing I would do is take it to a car wash and give it the full treatment. I always felt the need to take care of it as if it was my own. And mind you this was while I was in my 20’s. Amd even now in my early 30’s, I still catch a lot of grief for trying to take care of my car. Granted, my 2004 Alero sedan might not be the poster car for gearheads, but it’s mine, and I love it dearly and I want it to last for as long as I can. (She just turned 40000 miles tonight) I tend to drive slower out on the open roads, but I figure I’m just helping her last longer. I learned to drive in Florida with lots of old folks around me, so I didn’t have too much of a choice, I had to learn to drive conservatively. But don’t get me wrong, when the opportunity comes along, I love to see what she’ll do in the twisties. Every year I take off for the southern Appalachians and tour some serious roads from North Carolina to Pennsylvania (If you want to know some good spots, let me know). It’s always nice to get to be the “enthuiast driver” once in a while, and the Alero takes it in stride.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    When kids are given something they didn’t have to work for, they tend to appreciate it a lot less. Knowing that it will be repaired without cost to them is a big factor. Now to the anecdotes…

    As for rentals, my significant other and friends shot the dashboard of a rental Grand Marquis with a .22 (“dashboard looked at us funny”), hopped curbs, shot bottle rockets into the seats through the headrest holes (the stuffing caught on fire from inside and no longer moved forward or back), put sand and ocean water in the footwells for ambiance and flavored the inside with ham before driving really fast between two yellow steel pylons (leaving ‘racing stripes’ on the doors) and discarding a cigar into the airbox. The car was a few bucks short of being totaled. I think he’s on the Avis’s blacklist.

    As for leases In 2001, my friend Nick, leased a 2001 325i. It saw only WOT for the first 300 miles or so. Drove around in 3rd at 70 because the straight six sang a sweet song, gave it frequent 120-0 brake checks. Found out it rides far better off-road than a Subaru WRX. We even disconnected the exhaust at the headers and drove around for a while. I think he jumped it 2-3 times higher than a pre-runner truck (blew a tire one of those times). We broke a transmission mount re-enacting the Dakar rally with three other friends in the car and once got the transmission temp light to come on while doing doughnuts in a soccer field. Oh, one time he hit a pidgeon going 92 and blew the splash guard into a bunch of pieces and let the pidgeon remains congeal on his bumper for a few days.
    He blasted through three sets of tires and two sets of brake pads in 32,000 miles. He worked at an auto shop at the time. Put in a used splash guard and installed a new tranny mount. I rode in it one last time before he gave it back to BMW (we saw it a few months later at a different used car lot) and though it rode fine, you could hear all the abused bushings clunking around. That’s okay. “It’s a lease!”

    He’s now on his second (purchased) 2006 Tacoma Crew Cab. First one went down a cliff and bent the frame about $15,603.26 degrees so it got totaled. Insurance covered it (though not for the Sonata he rented for a few weeks that didn’t get any abuse) and now he has another Tacoma. Same trim and color!

    Fun, innit?

  • avatar
    artsy5347

    Being from a large family, I had to pay for my first car and every one threafter. I ran them hard but didn’t abuse — and I did all my own maintenance.

    I’ve been guilty of patting the dash of my old 510 and a beloved Civic or Maxima after they delivered me through horrid conditions in the middle of the night.

    In return I never promised to drive slowly, but I did shift at 4 grand and managed to avoid denting their skin. I’d love to have all of them back. Most of the readers here are car nuts, and I’d venture to say all have a comprehensive list of all the cars they’ve owned. My 90-year old Dad does, and he’s highlighted the special ones.

    When Paul Newman went from being just a beginner to a very good racer, he said the habit he had to break was babying the car. Bob Sharp convinced him the car was built to thrash – that it wasn’t his baby. I would be fixed good as new every week.

    Today we have too much money – so things come a little too easy. Many of us trade cars every two years. We drve a commodity, not a beloved family member. There aren’t a lot of doctors out there driving 10-year old BMW Tii s anymore. “Drive it like you stole it” gets a laugh from teens, but it puzzles me. “Drive it like you love it” is what would make me smile!

  • avatar

    Supreme Brougham writes: Every year I take off for the southern Appalachians and tour some serious roads from North Carolina to Pennsylvania (If you want to know some good spots, let me know).

    By all means, I’d love to know!!!

  • avatar

    supremebrougham:
    November 2nd, 2006 at 11:27 pm
    I know this is going to sound really cheesey, but I’m one of those types that whenever I have rented a car, and it wasn’t very clean, the first thing I would do is take it to a car wash and give it the full treatment. I always felt the need to take care of it as if it was my own.

    Larry Summers said something about how people never wash a rental car. But several years ago, a friend from out of town visited, and before he left for the airport, he washed the Kia Sportage very carefully.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    When you compare the own vs. lease/rental there are some pretty obvious facts. I clarify the own as purchasing it yourself with your own money. It’s the same with home ownership vs. renting or going to college on your own money vs. mom and dads. When you have to work for something you take better care of it whether that is a house or car is irrelevant. Another reason I’d never buy a pre-owned leased unless it was CPO or I knew the owner. Where is the incentive to take care of something if you won’t own it? Some will take care of a leased car because it’s just the right thing to do. I’d like to think I would if I ever leased a car because I want the person who ends up buying to have a quality vehicle that wasn’t abused.

    I have a new car which I really enjoy and I would buy it again most likely if I totaled it tomorrow. I am attached to it but still realize if it was gone then I’d get to pick out a new one and variety truly is the spice of life.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    Rental Neon? I learnt about the disadvantages of terminal understeer in one.

    Damage? Broken front suspension, bent wheel and a busted transmission after plowing into a kerb in a 40 mph left hander.

    Cost? Only the price of the loss-damage waiver of $11 for that day.

    Never tried that again in a nose-heavy front driver.

  • avatar

    Great article, and I really do think its true. I think it has been statistically proven that if you drive a clean (ie. just washed) car, you are less likely to speed and break traffic laws. My car is always clean and I never break the rules, ain’t I a good man.

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